Episode 35 (Season 4): ‘Of Stacks and Stones’
Let’s travel to the Small Isles of Scotland, discover the history and landscapes of the Isle of Canna and meet its wildlife & people.
‘Of Stacks and Stones’ is a story about an island that looks remote on the map, but it actually a bustling hub on the Scottish west coast – for people and animals alike. But it’s also a story about the natural beauty of the Isle of Canna.
We make our way to the top of a magnetic hill, across the bridge to Canna’s tidal neighbour Sanday and towards the cliffs and sea stacks that are home to a colony of Atlantic puffins. Along the way, we hear about Canna’s past, present and future.
For more about life on the Isle of Canna, listen to my interview with Isebail Mackinnon, who’s family has lived on Canna for generations.
After the story, I’ll tell you some of my top tips to make the most of your trip to the Isle of Canna!
Are you ready? Great – let’s travel to Scotland!
Written and hosted by Kathi Kamleitner.
Produced, edited and sound design by Fran Turauskis.
Transcripts and social media by Kirsty Spain.
Cover Art illustrated by Lizzie Vaughan-Knight.
All original music composed by Bruce Wallace.
Additional sound effects from Zapsplat.
All photographs by Kathi Kamleitner.
Plan your trip with my Isle of Canna travel guide on Watch Me See
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My Isle of Canna Travel Tips
Take your time
It’s really important to emphasise that islands like the Isle of Canna really require you to take your time. Yes, you can theoretically do a day trip to the island, at least if the ferries play along, but you wouldn’t actually get a sense for it.
I spent 3 nights on Canna and wish I had stayed longer to see more of the island and meet more of its people. It’s a great wee place to slow down and explore at your own pace.
Stay at Canna Campsite
There are a couple of accommodation options on the island. There is a guest house which was just taken over and re-done beautifully by a lovely lady from Glasgow. There are a few self-catering cottages and caravans, and then there’s the campsite. Now, you may not want to sleep in a tent, and that’s absolutely fine – neither did I.
Instead I booked one of the glamping pods at the campsite. That way, I had a roof over my head for those inevitable rainy days, but it also encouraged me to spend as much time as possible outside.
The campsite has a cooking shed and a modern toilet and shower block with cold water only. Isebail, who runs the campsite, delivers breakfast baskets full of local produce to your door, and each pod also has a firepit and a picnic bench. It was the perfect home base for my stay and honestly, one of the best views I’ve ever had in Scotland.
Book a table at Canna Cafe
This one is important if you don’t want to repeat my mistake. Not that I didn’t love my spontaneous walk to the puffins, but I really hadn’t expected Canna Cafe to be fully booked that evening. Since Canna is a popular mooring spot for sailing yachts, there can actually be a lot more people on the island than you might expect coming off the ferry.
Canna Cafe is the only restaurant on the island and it’s a popular place, so I do recommend you head there first thing to make reservations for your time on the island. They also take bookings via email if you’re super keen. Their menu is a great mix of Scottish classics, seafood from the bay and even some vegan options.
Make time to chat with the locals
Like me, you may have heard about Canna in the context of its natural beauty. The puffins, the sea stacks, the corncrake; but really it’s the people who make this island so special. Some of them have lived on Canna for generations, others are fairly recent arrivals who’ve taken on the island way of life.
Like I said in the intro to this episode, I met a lot of people on Canna and it was so nice to hear their stories. I think it’s really important to engage with the people who call the places we visit their home, and get a kind of reality check. Canna does feel super remote for someone like me, maybe even wild, but really there’s a lot more to it when you start digging deeper and just listen. I encourage you to do the same.
Pack some seasickness meds
No really, the Isle of Canna is pretty far out, and while the journey to Rum or Eigg is relatively sheltered, the ferry can hit some pretty rough water on its way to and from Canna. On the day I returned to the mainland, the big ferry was actually called away, so I had to go back on a much smaller boat. It was a beautiful sunny day, the wind was blowing strong and the swell was massive. I held on to that boat so tightly, I thought I could never let go again.
It was the worst ferry trip of my life and even though it lasted only an hour, I felt motion-sick all evening. I definitely wish I had brought some meds or remedies with me. I won’t make that mistake again!
If all of this has inspired you to plan a trip to the Isle of Canna, head to my Scotland travel blog Watch Me See and find my detailed Canna travel guide for lots of tips and inspiration. I promise it’s worth the seasickness.